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Dido, through Anna

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In Phoenicia, Dido was crimson in her sister’s eyes. The bright marriage to their uncle left her vivid and flushed, and the princess skipped through the palace flaunting her colour. Then, she was crimson with blood: the blood on the altar, the blood on the wealth she stole, and the blood she shed on Sychaeus’ tomb. Anna handed her the knife, watching silently as Dido slashed her palm and let rich, lonely drops water the grave.

“In this way, part of me remains with him.”

In Libya, Dido was grey. Saltwater crusted all the Phoenicians’ grab, and their finery had been turned a drab, indiscriminate colour by the bleaching sun and the endless, drenching waves. It took nearly a year to sail from Tyre to the New Phoenicia, and the colour drained from Dido during the journey. Conning the natives out of enough land to build a city, throwing herself tirelessly into the establishment of a new realm to rule over, grey meant exhaustion. Everyone was grey, covered with fine sand blown by the South Wind and with the dust from the stones carved for the city wall. To Anna, Carthage was a fool’s task, a citadel that would kill her sister in its creation. She saw it leach the strength from Dido, and every day she was more slender, more grey, and the only hint of her strength was left in her fiery eyes.

Dido’s eyes were mirrors that reflected the colours of the sun setting over Carthage’s half-formed temples. They contrasted with the dirt and grime covering her skin and garments and their burning gaze attracted suitors from all the neighbouring cities. Fair Iarbas, dusky Lycas, brown Xythus vied for her hand, and the efforts of pushing them away without giving offense left the queen ever more drawn, like a charcoal sketch spattered with water.

When Aeneas came, Anna wept with joy. The queen of Half-Built Carthage regained luster and her cheeks flushed in the presence of the Trojan prince. The Phoenicians halted their work and shook off their drabness in feting the lost Trojans and recreated a bright court to rival that of Tyre in gaiety, if not in luxury. Dido wore magenta, fuchsia, maroon, and all the blazing colours she had in Tyre.

Even when Aeneas fled, Dido was scarlet, raging alternately with fury and grief. Anna thought that maybe the queen would abandon the citadel and chase her errant prince to Hesperia. When she passed by Anna’s window dressed in her crimson wedding garments, Anna was certain of this, and rejoiced to see her sister suffused with vigor and colour again. It was not until the wind carried the scent of smoke to her room that she hurried outside and gaped at the magnificent, horrible pyre ablaze in the courtyard. Dido lay atop of it and when the scarlet, hellish fire subsided, her body was ashes, grey mingled with stray threads of red. Her sword, found lodged in her ribs, was stained with a pale mixture of gritty, faded brown blood and flakes of ash.